The History and Modern Uses Of Plant-Based Medicine
Disclaimer: Always seek the advice of your physician prior to starting or stopping herbal therapies. 🙂
If you’ve visited the farm you’ve probably noticed my love for herbs. I have two plots solely dedicated to their production, as well as, companion herbs planted throughout our garden spaces. I am a “foodie” and enjoy cooking using my fresh herbs, but in addition to adding flavor to dishes, many herbs have numerous healing properties. Prior to pharmaceuticals, our ancestors relied on plants to heal and treat various conditions.
The history of alternative herbal medicine is a long one, and in order to understand why so many people are once again turning to this form of medicine, you need to understand the history so you can decide if it might be for you. In fact, you might be surprised to find out that in ancient times, herbal medicine was considered to be the only form of effective medicine. Today, modern medicinal discoveries are based off the usage of many herbal remedies from ancient times.
When the ancient used herbal medicine, it was primarily trial and error that helped medical practitioners to make their patients better and this is where the history of alternative herbal medicine began. Initially, herbs were used to clean wounds and prevent infections, but over time, the use of these same herbs as medicine to cure everything from female cramping to coughs was discovered and used with great results.
Over time, herbs were pounded down and made into poultices to effectively heal wounds. As doctors discovered that these herbs could heal wounds, the value of making teas and tinctures using the essential oils of the same herbs that would heal. It was also found that the roots of the plants contained medicinal properties that were in many cases stronger and more effective than the leaves of the plants. This link provides a detailed list of herbs and their medicinal value: List of herbs and their medicinal properties.
Thomas Jefferson was also a gardener who kept thorough records of his gardens at Monticello. His garden book dated 1766-1824 “Objects For The Garden” listed countless herbs and their healing properties. His dedication to the study of herbal therapies is carried on through the Thomas Jefferson University located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thomas Jefferson University was America’s first and only cannabis education certificate program which launched Autumn of 2018. The program is designed to fill the gap between conventional treatments and herbal therapies by providing cannabis education programs to physicians and nurses.
Fast forward to modern day medicine. Most pharmaceutical drugs are single chemical entities that are highly refined and purified and are often synthesized. In 1987 about 85% of modern drugs were originally derived from plants. Currently, only about 15% of drugs are derived from plants. In contrast, herbal medicines are prepared from living or dried plants and contain hundreds to thousands of interrelated compounds. Science is beginning to demonstrate that the safety and effectiveness of herbs is often related to the synergy of it’s many constituents.
Most of us have heard, “Let food by thy medicine”. The primary focus of the herbalist is to treat people as individuals irrespective of the disease or condition they have, and to stimulate their innate healing power through the use of such interventions as herbs, diet, and lifestyle. The primary focus of conventional physicians is to attack diseases using strong chemicals that are difficult for the body to process, or through the removal of organs. Not only does this ignore the unique makeup of the individual, but many patients under conventional care suffer from side effects that are as bad as the condition being treated. The philosophical difference between herbalists and conventional physicians has profound significance.
Conventional medicine has a significant role in our modern society. Pharmaceuticals play a crucial role in human health and curing disease. But with the good also comes risks, side effects, and over reliance. A “magic pill” doesn’t exist. Yet many Americans continue to take multiple prescription drugs only to mask their condition while potentially creating more damage than good. I’ve seen these cases first hand practicing nursing and I too was a clinical case desperate for a “cure”. In a society driven by convenience the majority of us will choose the pill that carries risks versus taking the necessary steps to truly heal ourselves. It could be, quite possibly, a lack of understanding on the topic. For example: I consumed a traditional Western diet, filled with highly processed foods, packed with all things chemical. I struggled with chronic fatigue, frequent headaches, lack of focus, joint pain and just general malaise. I wasted years at doctor appointments, labs and imaging, all in the name of a diagnoses (that never came to be) so my physician could provide treatment. It never occurred to me my symptoms were directly related to my diet. As a matter of fact, my eureka moment happened smack dab in the middle of a classroom when I was 29 years old. I was listening to the first lecture in my diet and nutrition class; a course I was required to pass for my nursing degree. It was during these lectures that I learned how plants directly affect human health. I became completely fascinated with their healing properties and MY JOURNEY to wellness began with my relentless pursuits of formal and self education on lifestyle measures to not only heal, but prevent human disease. My entire life improved with my new gained knowledge and motivation to feel “normal” again. After initiating lifestyle measures that focused on whole foods (foods nature provides), within three months, I was free from the painful cycle of the chronic symptoms that controlled my life for so many years.
I used my personal illness to help others as I continued practicing as a nurse. Having the ability to understand the frustration my patients were experiencing from a chronic condition fueled my desire to provide my patients with appropriate dietary education. As a farmer, I’ve taken my passion for healing to the next level; one without (appointment) time constraints and gobs of red tape. I never expected to apply my formal nursing education to my journey as a farmer, but here I am, planting with a purpose just as my ancestors did thousands of years ago.